At the church we went to for the better part of my childhood, every Sunday one of the elders would stand up and say a “family prayer” – lifting up the needs and requests of various church members corporately.
Most of the time, the prayer was clearly pre-scripted and read.
That drove. Me. Nuts.
I thought it was inauthentic. Robotic. In my self-righteous pride, I thought, “Seriously? These church leaders can’t just talk to God without writing it out in advance?”
In the same vein, until recently, I thought Jesus’ explanation for how to pray in Matthew 6: 5-14 was kind of strange, to be honest. Why, when teaching his disciples to pray, would he give them a set prayer to say? Were these really just words we’re supposed to say over and over?
For a guy who liked to push against the grain of rote tradition, his answer seems uncharacteristic. When 1 Thessalonians says to “pray without ceasing”, does that mean we just rinse and repeat the Lord’s prayer? Plus, how is the Lord’s Prayer helpful when I commit to pray for my neighbor’s back issues, or a student’s board exams, or a friend’s crumbling marriage?
I understood so little of prayer. Still understand so little of prayer. But I’d like to think the last few years have been a season of significant growth in my prayer life.
I don’t even remember how or where I first came across the idea, but somewhere along the lines a few years ago I heard that when He gave us the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus was giving us a template for prayer.
Ahhhh! Ding ding ding! In the words of Gru from Despicable Me, “Light bulb!”
Templates aren’t meant to be used exactly as is. They are meant to be the framework to bring something to life. The trellis that allows the vine to grow, so to speak.
So it is with the Lord’s Prayer. It’s the template, the structure, the framework, that guides our prayers. On it’s own it is a wonderful thing to pray. When used as a template to pray about specific things, it is even better.
It has all the elements of a good prayer…
- Adoration (Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name)
- Submission to the will of God (Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.)
- Supplication for our needs (Give us this day our daily bread)
- Repentance (Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors)
- Prayer against sin (Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil)
This prayer covers our relationship with God, our relationship to others, our relationship to our sin, and our relationship to the world around us. Boom. It’s like Jesus knew what He was doing or something.
Once this light bulb went off, I started praying for things using the Lord’s Prayer as my framework. Since then, God is continuing to teach me how to prayer the treasure trove of Scripture. And He’s showing me that maybe those scripted prayers our elders said weren’t such a bad thing after all…but more on that later.
If you’ve never done it before, I encourage you to try using the Lord’s Prayer to pray over a specific request or need. You can keep it incredibly simple…you may start with praying the prayer verbatim, only adding “your kingdom come, your will be done, on/in____[insert person, place, or sphere of influence] as it is in heaven.” Then, you can continue expanding from there.
It may feel clunky at first, but that’s ok. Writing it out may feel less clunky. The Lord hears your prayers, eloquent or not, and like any discipline, it will become easier with practice.
Not sure how to start? Below is an example of how I prayed the Lord’s Prayer over our decision to move this summer.
How have you understood the Lord’s Prayer before? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Comment below.
Father in Heaven, You are the giver of all good things. You have endless wisdom and power. Not a sparrow falls without You knowing. You are Lord. I am not.
As we consider moving, I pray that your kingdom will come and your will be done in our current home on F. Ave and in our potential new home on M. Ave. May your will be done in these homes and the neighborhoods around them on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us our daily bread, Lord. Grant us the measure of wisdom we need to make this decision. Put all the financial pieces in place so that through this move we will have more, not less, to give back to You. Ultimately, I pray that YOU would be our daily bread so that our move is not motivated by selfish ambition or materialistic pursuit but by love for You.
Forgive us of the idols of our hearts whenever they rear their ugly heads, Lord. As evidence of Your grace at work in us, help us to forgive one another when we offend one another in this stressful time.
Lord, let us not fall into temptation. Let not the deceiving allure of earthly things tempt us. Deliver us from fear, from anxiety, from idolatry, from every form of evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever, amen.